Hatred Rated Adults Only by the ESRB

Ichiro Oogami

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Geo Da Sponge said:
Unless you're suggesting that the ESRB is in fact an SJW sleeper cell or something...
I'm not going to make an accusation that extreme without evidence. I only suspect political motivation since this comes on the heels of the anti-GTA petition and Hotline Miami 2's Refused Classification rating, both of which were applied for content deemed politically incorrect.

I am open to any evidence to the contrary, however.
 

Phrozenflame500

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Ichiro Oogami said:
I'm not going to make an accusation that extreme without evidence. I only suspect political motivation since this comes on the heels of the anti-GTA petition and Hotline Miami 2's Refused Classification rating, both of which were applied for content deemed politically incorrect.
Weren't those both in Australia though? This is a completely different government here, I doubt they're related at all.
 

Ichiro Oogami

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Phrozenflame500 said:
Ichiro Oogami said:
I'm not going to make an accusation that extreme without evidence. I only suspect political motivation since this comes on the heels of the anti-GTA petition and Hotline Miami 2's Refused Classification rating, both of which were applied for content deemed politically incorrect.
Weren't those both in Australia though? This is a completely different government here, I doubt they're related at all.
That may be true, but communication is global now so it could have influenced the decision.
 

JMac85

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For all the debate as to whether this game should have an AO rating or an M is missing the bigger picture here: why should an AO rating be the scarlet letter(s) for gaming? Most gamers are adults, therefore the AO rating should be an industry standard, not a threat of ad hoc censorship. There are plenty of games rated M that should be rated AO. Not because of any moral grandstanding, but because the rating system should be properly utilized.
 

Aesir23

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You know, normally I'd be confused about why this game would be given an AO rating since we've had plenty of violent video games in the past. However, I think the difference is that in this case killing and murdering innocent people is the actual purpose of the game instead of just something the player can do.

I mean, sure, you can kill civilians en masse in GTA and many people will do just that (myself included) but killing civilians is never the objective of the game.

This game reeks of a very expensive attempt at trolling people or just being obnoxious on the part of the developers.
 
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Yeah, context matters.

Even in the original Postal, killing the non-hostile people was there as a bonus, not something required to complete the game. And GTA/Saints Row have a satirical edge in addition to a lot of violence being optional. Is there much of a difference between a game allowing you to kill innocents and making it a goal? I guess that's up to you, but there is a pretty clear difference between this game and many of the examples given IMO.

I remember reading somewhere that the RSAC used to automatically give games the highest violence rating if the enemies did things like beg for their lives after being shot. That seems to be the reason why Doom got violence 3, and Duke3D and ROTT got violence 4.

Speaking of AO games on consoles, I get the feeling AVGN Adventures might get slapped with one for the Atari porn level. The rating hasn't been revealed, but Nintendo has already approved it apparently. So I think AO on console isn't that far off. if not, well M rated games already get away with a HELL of a lot more than R rated movies (when in theory, it's analogous). So perhaps the AO rating should just be done away with?

Ichiro Oogami said:
Hotline Miami 2's Refused Classification rating, both of which were applied for content deemed politically incorrect.
That's the second time I've seen someone claim HM2's ban was because of political correctness. Correct me if I'm wrong, but hasn't rape been treated as a special kind of evil even way before PCness was a thing? I really don't get this. Seems to have more to do with conservative/traditional views of sexual content than anything ... Not that rape isn't evil ... but I see someone with a "traditional" point of view being more upset over it being portrayed in a game.
 

frizzlebyte

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RJ 17 said:
In order to understand why this game got an AO rating, you needn't look to the actual violence. You can effectively do the exact same thing - granted not nearly in as much detail - in any given GTA. No, to understand why they slapped this with an AO you need to look at the subject matter in the context of today's society. It's a Shooting Rampage Simulator being made during times when random acts of MASSIVE violence seem to be occurring every other week. That kinda bumps the "offensive scale" up a few levels beyond just being a horrendously violent game.
The way the guy in the trailer is going on about humanity being "worms feasting on the world's carcass" and him being filled with "cold, bitter hatred" and whatever, the first thing I thought was "Hello, Elliot Roger," that guy that made the Youtube vids before he went on his rampage killing spree. People haven't drawn parallels to that case, but that's what I thought of, immediately.

Let's face it, this is a creepy, creepy game that goes several shades above GTA just because the anti-protagonist is wallowing in hatred for humanity, which is, unfortunately, a real thing. Sure, it's overblown and grandiose, but that's what people were saying about Elliot Roger's demeanor, too.

Anyone saying "Whut? Hatred's not an AO game! CENSORSHIP!!!" really isn't thinking beyond the end of their nose here. It's not really about the violence. It's about the context of the violence.
 

RanceJustice

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Overall, it seems that Hatred is little different than other ultra-violent games that have been published in the past. Perhaps the closest analog is the Postal series, especially Postal 2 - which gleefully allowed attacking non-hostiles and had massive amounts of intentionally offensive caricatures (ie Arabs portrayed via jihadist tropes, Indian convenience store owners who smell, ultra-flaming homosexuals and BDSM lifestyle "gimps", and many more. etc..). Hell, you could even urinate on people to show your displeasure. It even allowed the use of cats as silencers which more than anything else turned my stomach and raised my ire - torture or brutality of animals I find repugnant to the point I'd rather not personally see it even in virtual form. Truth be told many of the accusations made toward Hatred were made to Postal 2 at its time (murder simulator etc..), but the game was sold physically in brick-and-mortar stores with few refusing to carry the title. Subsequently, the entire Postal series is still available on Steam and other digital resellers, with all content included. Likewise, titles like Hotline Miami also depict psychopathic behavior, yet may not raise the same sort of controversy shown here.

Clearly, there is an audience for Hatred, as it reached the Steam Greenlight threshold of interested players to qualify for the next stage of adoption. I'm a bit perplexed as to why they even petitioned for an ESRB rating, unless the developers were seeking a physical retail sale option in the US, and/or console support. Sadly, the AO rating is used as a bit of a cudgel based on societal mores - AO titles are not carried by any physical retailers, not allowed on any major consoles, and even a good amount of digital storefronts, including Steam, reject games with an actual or with content that would likely lead to an AO rating. For instance, Steam has recently been carrying Japanese and Anime-style-yet-developed-elsewere "visual novels" which often contain nudity and graphic sexual content. However, for the Steam versions, these titles are nearly always censored to remove anything deemed pornographic. A few smart developers have posted instructions/patches to restore any cut content on their Steam forms, but overall as a matter of principle I'd much rather Steam sell all of their titles with the full, uncensored content included - perhaps allowing censored/family safe options to be an available change, as oppose to the default.

"Hatred" 's content is not really blazing any new trail, but the response of storefronts and the industry as a whole could very well be, and not for the better. Back in the 90s for instance, when scandals of "Mortal Kombat" and poor censorship/localization of mild content such as Final Fantasy IV and VI were commonplace and the only option, given monolithic control of the industry between console manufactures and retailers (ie the famous quote from devs/publishers I've spoken with personally: "After each game is about to go gold, a rep from WalMart comes and decides if they'll carry the product. If the WalMart rep says no, then its back to the drawing board with any offending content cut. Sometimes, we've even had to drop large swathes of content and/or entire games thanks to a WalMart thumbs down. If WalMart won't carry it, it isn't worth making"!) Thankfully, the industry and game journalism at the time fought hard against critics and for free expression - Mortal Kombat wasn't, as some American politicians asserted, the downfall of civilization nor a murder simulator that would program the next generation into spine-ripping psychopaths.

Technological progress has given us more avenues than ever for niche titles to be developed and find their audience, such as multitudes of digital storefronts like Steam or the tools to sell and distribute a title viably from your own website. However, I find it worrisome that in the case of Hatred, that elements of the industry, including game journalism ( an increasingly tenuous prospect, to even call it such) are dragging their heels to support freedom of expression as they used to do so. Likewise, if the ESRB is making its AO rating based on sociopolitical grounds despite strong precedent that similar content received the more palatable M rating, that should be a rallying point agreed upon by gamers, journalists, and developers alike. Instead, we see keyword-bait articles exploring the notion that Hatred's developer is a Neo-Nazi.

I have no idea what kind of product Hatred will turn out to be, but if we insist that gaming deserves the same access to find its audience as any other artistic medium, without attempts to ban or blackball, tacitly or otherwise, then the entire industry needs to stand behind letting the game rise or fall on its own merits.
 

Deathfish15

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I doubt there's political reasoning behind this so much as humanity. The game, whether it's in black-and-white or not, is a murder simulator. The whole basis of the game is to play a character looking to be a blend of Columbine's, Oklahoma City's, and Unibomber's evils. The trailer itself is something to cringe at showing things like stabbing women, gutting cops, and other general acts of inhumanity.

And from the design, the game seems to enhance the violence. The whole trailer shows that the color red is highlighted over the black&white background. Visceral blood splatter in crimson red against the screen while shotgunning someones head. The citizens are running away, screaming, BEGGING for their lives. There is no humor in the game, no over-the-top, no story. It's just a sick simulation of "psychopath kills innocent people in neighborhoods".



StatusNil said:
Except Steam has a policy of not allowing AO rated games.

Not that I care for Hatred, but I find the situation a little... politically suspicious.

And beyond Steam I'm sure there are also plenty of other digital distribution services that won't carry it either, let alone any retailer even touching it with a 10ft pole. The game's design to be so controversial also effectively killed any chances at mass distribution because nobody wants it. It's disgusting and disturbs way too many; people are behind those business that make such decisions, yet they seem to forget that.
 

Mr.Pandah

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Well...yeah, I mean you're killing innocent people in gruesome ways with little to no reasoning behind it. I can see why it's getting an AO rating.
 

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Lunar Templar said:
TLDR; It's not the violence it self that got this game an AO rating, it's the context those violent acts are being carried out.
All righty. So now we're arguing for ratings to give more weight to context (which can be interpreted in a few different ways here, regardless of the developer's stated intent, and can vary greatly in terms of how 'bad' people view it) rather than content.

Cool. I do hope ya get how slippery that particular slope is.

Allow me to be a bit hyperbolic here to illustrate a point:

Plague Inc. - The goal is to create a super virus to wipe out man kind. Violence isn't illustrated, but the implication of a virus/disease or what have you with the killing potential to take out humanity is horrific in and of itself. Even the word "plague" conjures images of Black Death or Ebola and their associated results.

Under the current ESRB system, it'd receive an E or E 10+ due to the lack of violence actually being depicted. Context is irrelevant without content, it seems.

As for a more pertinent example:

The Manhunts - Both 1 and 2 are rated M. Both feature violent murders. The point of them, or at least the first, is to murder your way through a conga-line of enemies for the delight of a snuff film producer, in an effort to escape.

That's the context. To me? That's just as bad as what Hatred's swinging around.

So we've got a precedent set. Horrific violence with an equally horrific context is A-Okay...but just not this context, because it's apparently been "unilaterally" decided that said context is just too far beyond the pale.

What you're doing by rating from a point of context is making a value judgment that not everyone shares. The trailer for this game and the idea behind it does not sit right with me. It made me kind of ill to see it, with respect to the context...but then, I have similar feelings about Dead Space and any other ultra violent title where vivisection and jiggling organic bits flopping about, ruining the upholstery, is the norm.

TL;DR - Arguing from a point of context, while helpful in some circumstances, is not at all the direction a ratings system needs to head in. It opens them up to a bit too much subjectivity, whereas, basing it purely on content provides at least some modicum of objectivity.

(A reminder: I don't like the game. I don't like violence for violence's sake, and I don't like the stigma associated with an AO rating. That said? Most games, including Hatred, are just not realistic enough for me to genuinely interpret them as "adult's only."

Now...the Saw/Hostel movies? God yes. Those are some convincing make-up effects, damn it...I still get a flash of that one guy's legs snapping and getting crushed, in gory detail, by a fuckin' trash compactor. Ugh. Not even sure how I stumbled on that. Channel surfing can be a terrible thing.

It was rated R, by the way.)


The fun thing here is that, despite all of the controversy that engulfed Postal and Manhunt at the time of their creation...they look downright tame now, because the graphics just haven't aged well and, even at the time, weren't very good.

Hatred is the same damned thing. It doesn't look realistic. It's got a damned filter over it, for fuck sakes, and the premise is so over the top as to be teetering on parody.

In 5 years, this will just be another blip on the controversy radar that we'll all look back on, shrug, and issue a collective "Meh."
 

Lunar Templar

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Sweet, I can play that game!
LostGryphon said:
Plague Inc. - The goal is to create a super virus to wipe out man kind. Violence isn't illustrated, but the implication of a virus/disease or what have you with the killing potential to take out humanity is horrific in and of itself. Even the word "plague" conjures images of Black Death or Ebola and their associated results.

Under the current ESRB system, it'd receive an E or E 10+ due to the lack of violence actually being depicted. Context is irrelevant without content, it seems.
I hear the CDC actually uses that ... and I doubt it would get an E rating given what your doing, that's a hard M right there.

The Manhunts - Both 1 and 2 are rated M. Both feature violent murders. The point of them, or at least the first, is to murder your way through a conga-line of enemies for the delight of a snuff film producer, in an effort to escape.

That's the context. To me? That's just as bad as what Hatred's swinging around.
And both of those caught a HUGE amount of hell to, and SHOULD have gotten an AO rating. I think they where also banned in some places due to content as well. Actually, I think they WHERE going to get an AO rating at first but the devs toned it down enough to get an M

TL;DR - Arguing from a point of context, while helpful in some circumstances, is not at all the direction a ratings system needs to head in. It opens them up to a bit too much subjectivity, whereas, basing it purely on content provides at least some modicum of objectivity.


Hatred is the same damned thing. It doesn't look realistic. It's got a damned filter over it, for fuck sakes, and the premise is so over the top as to be teetering on parody.

In 5 years, this will just be another blip on the controversy radar that we'll all look back on, shrug, and issue a collective "Meh."
DeadSpace falls under the 'not human so free pass' thing to btw.

and, yeah, it kinda should if this is the kinda shit we're gonna start getting. Context Matters, it always matters. doesn't matter what it is or if there's some artsy 'filter' over it. Why some one is doing something is just as important as them actually doing it.

5 Years? I give it 2, at most. Sooner it happens the better far as I'm concerned, and I kind sorta really hope it wrecks these devs in the processe
 

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Lunar Templar said:
I hear the CDC actually uses that ... and I doubt it would get an E rating given what your doing, that's a hard M right there.
Yep, which is actually pretty neat.

But we'll have to disagree here.

And both of those caught a HUGE amount of hell to, and SHOULD have gotten an AO rating. I think they where also banned in some places due to content as well. Actually, I think they WHERE going to get an AO rating at first but the devs toned it down enough to get an M
I know. I acknowledged the controversy farther down in my post.

And, yet, they still received M ratings. What they're left with, even toned down, is pretty "gruesome."
DeadSpace falls under the 'not human so free pass' thing to btw.

and, yeah, it kinda should if this is the kinda shit we're gonna start getting. Context Matters, it always matters. doesn't matter what it is or if there's some artsy 'filter' over it. Why some one is doing something is just as important as them actually doing it.

5 Years? I give it 2, at most. Sooner it happens the better far as I'm concerned, and I kind sorta really hope it wrecks these devs in the processe
Calling bullshit on the Deadspace thing.

People are straight up slaughtered by monsters and other people in those games.

Hell, Isaac himself has entire death montages devoted to him.

Remember this? Straight up Saw stuff. And he looks human to me.

And of course context matters. I'm not saying it doesn't. I'm saying that using context as an excuse to separate a game from others, with similar violent content, based on distaste for a specific context is not a road I want to see a rating system, which is supposed to aim for objectivity, go down.

It just muddies things. The content itself is sufficient and has, seemingly, been the basis for ratings up until this point.
 

EvolutionKills

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Ichiro Oogami said:
Geo Da Sponge said:
Hey, you want controversy, you get controversy. I don't have any sympathy for people who specifically design a game to piss people off as much as possible and then get in trouble with the organisation for dealing with games that might piss people off.
lacktheknack said:
You wanna ruffle feathers, Destructive Creations? Here you go, you ruffled feathers.

Not quite what you wanted? Awwwww.
That's where I disagree; I have a lot of sympathy for them. If anyone designs a game that goes beyond what self-appointed cultural mavens (SJWs, political organizations, etc.) find acceptable, you are "pissing people off" - the very people that seek to restrict the art you're allowed to make. It doesn't have to be an ultra-violent murder simulator; it can be a game about a particular battle in the Iraq War. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Interview_(2014_film)] Go beyond the constricting lines they set, and you will "piss people off" because they want everything to pass through only with their approval. Whatever is not expressly permitted is forbidden, and you're only allowed to talk about that which they permit you to talk about because they say so.

As this article [http://techlick.com/index.php/tech-lick/verge/27779-gamergate-?-an-issue-with-two-sides] says (bolded emphasis is mine):

Critics will argue that someone banned on Reddit or neoGAF can simply go elsewhere on the Internet rather miss the point. Censorship is about denying certain views of an audience. Giving someone the freedom to speak in a deserted forest (or an unvisited website) doesn?t actually mean a great deal.
While that was a reference to #Gamergate, it applies here as well. We shouldn't be quick to celebrate the suppression of a game just because you find the subject matter disagreeable. Remember, Australia gave Hotline Miami 2 a "Refused Classification" to suppress it as well since it featured a rape (showing rape at all is a no-no regardless of context, but depicting other forms of assault is okay so long as it isn't too gory), and two stores in Australia stopped selling GTA V due to an organized campaign explicitly intended to censor the game since it hurt the petitioners' feelings. Both games went beyond what cultural mavens found acceptable, but that doesn't mean that their suppression was something to be celebrated.

Yeah, but nobody is actually censoring the game. The game has been rated AO by the ESRB, a private and independent industry entity. We know that AO carries with it a stigma, and one that is generally well earned, that has a negative effect on sales. Why? Because other private entities like Walmart and Target refuse to stock games rated AO (much in the same way they don't stock pornography), and they do so for their own benefit from a business perspective.

Nobody is censoring the game. However nobody is obligated to purchase it, or stock it. Their freedom of expression isn't being limited as far as I can tell. However their expression might come at a private cost, and that is their choice to make as developers. They can choose to censor themselves in order to reach the more marketable M rating, but that is their choice to make.

Pornography is not obliged to be given anything else besides a X rating by the MPAA, nor does it have a right to be shown in private theaters or sell tickets just because it exists. This is why porn doesn't seek MPAA classification, and don't distribute through movie theaters. They have found alternate methods of distribution in order to maintain their freedom of expression and still turn a profit. The developers of Hatred have this option as well, just like explicit eroge games do. They simply are not owed shelf space at private retailers, digital or otherwise.
 

EvolutionKills

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LostGryphon said:
And of course context matters. I'm not saying it doesn't. I'm saying that using context as an excuse to separate a game from others, with similar violent content, based on distaste for a specific context is not a road I want to see a rating system, which is supposed to aim for objectivity, go down.

It just muddies things. The content itself is sufficient and has, seemingly, been the basis for ratings up until this point.

Bold used for emphasis.

That is an assumption on your part, and clearly one the ESRB doesn't seem to agree with.

How would an objective system work? Should they be busy attempting to measure the volume of digital blood used? Counting the number of giblets? Should the difference between a Teen and a Mature game be the number of civilians you can kill?

They're all subjective, and none of them are trying otherwise. Each represents, to a greater or lesser extent, the acceptable cultural norms for the cultures they represent. This is why Nazi paraphernalia gets censored out of WWII games in Germany, why Japan has a comparatively higher tolerance for nudity, while the United States has a generally higher tolerance for blood, guts, and gore; but clearly even we have our boundaries and limits. Even between games that share a Mature rating, some parents will find more or less objectionable for their children. A parent who might be okay with killing aliens in the hero context of HALO can object to the criminal context of Grand Theft Auto, and be both well reasoned and within their rights of discretion; but I doubt anybody is bothering with calculating the average number of f-bombs in GTA to make that distinction, nor would it really be all that constructive to do so.

I'd argue that context is the most important aspect to consider.

Let's try that again, comparing Plageu Inc. and Manhunt. If you want to argue that Plague's E10+ rating is bogus vis-a-vis the total kill count (regardless of context, we are being objective here) when compared to Manhunt, then the movie Independence Day should be rated NC-17 instead of PG13 because it depicts cities full of people being annihilated compared to only the handful of people killed in any given R rated SAW movie. This is patently ridiculous.

Context is key.
 

jackpipsam

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Steve the Pocket said:
I really do not get why there's some massive difference between a rating reserved for 17 and up and one reserved for 18 and up. Hell, WHY ARE THERE EVEN TWO SEPARATE RATINGS IN THE FIRST PLACE if the difference is literally one fucking year I mean come on now. I don't think this is a problem that any other country has.
That's the problem with age related restrictions to begin with.
Age is an arbitrary number when it comes to personality or life of a person, it doesn't say anything about a persons maturity, experience, emotions, thoughts, opinions, what they accept, what they can handle, what they know ect.
If it was up to me, we'd ditch all rating systems based on age and replace it with a a general guideline (with no legal power) to tell a person how intense something is.
In fact to much controversy i'd be willing to ditch a lot of age based laws, although for obvious reasons that would never happen in the current state of society.


But as for a difference between a 17 & 18 year old? None in reality. Just as there's no real difference between a 12 & 13 year old, yet someone somewhere decided that 13 would be the minimum for internet based laws.
 

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EvolutionKills said:
LostGryphon said:
And of course context matters. I'm not saying it doesn't. I'm saying that using context as an excuse to separate a game from others, with similar violent content, based on distaste for a specific context is not a road I want to see a rating system, which is supposed to aim for objectivity, go down.

It just muddies things. The content itself is sufficient and has, seemingly, been the basis for ratings up until this point.

Bold used for emphasis.

That is an assumption on your part, and clearly one the ESRB doesn't seem to agree with.

How would an objective system work? Should they be busy attempting to measure the volume of digital blood used? Counting the number of giblets? Should the difference between a Teen and a Mature game be the number of civilians you can kill?

They're all subjective, and none of them are trying otherwise. Each represents, to a greater or lesser extent, the acceptable cultural norms for the cultures they represent. This is why Nazi paraphernalia gets censored out of WWII games in Germany, why Japan has a comparatively higher tolerance for nudity, while the United States has a generally higher tolerance for blood, guts, and gore; but clearly even we have our boundaries and limits. Even between games that share a Mature rating, some parents will find more or less objectionable for their children. A parent who might be okay with killing aliens in the hero context of HALO can object to the criminal context of Grand Theft Auto, and be both well reasoned and within their rights of discretion; but I doubt anybody is bothering with calculating the average number of f-bombs in GTA to make that distinction, nor would it really be all that constructive to do so.

I'd argue that context is the most important aspect to consider.

Let's try that again, comparing Plageu Inc. and Manhunt. If you want to argue that Plague's E10+ rating is bogus vis-a-vis the total kill count (regardless of context, we are being objective here) when compared to Manhunt, then the movie Independence Day should be rated NC-17 instead of PG13 because it depicts cities full of people being annihilated compared to only the handful of people killed in any given R rated SAW movie. This is patently ridiculous.

Context is key.
It's an assumption that a medium's ratings board, and, by extension, the system they put in place, is supposed to strive for objectivity and fair assessment of products? That's just...sad.

I appreciate the immediate dive into hyperbole, but it's not helpful. :/

Here's this. Devs/Publishers or whatever have to provide the following for rating:

- A completed ESRB online questionnaire detailing the game's pertinent content, which essentially translates to anything that may factor into the game's rating. This includes not only the content itself (violence, sexual content, language, controlled substances, gambling, etc.), but other relevant factors such as context, reward systems and the degree of player control; and
- A DVD that captures all pertinent content, including typical gameplay, missions, and cutscenes, along with the most extreme instances of content across all relevant categories. Pertinent content that is not playable (i.e., "locked out") but will exist in the game code on the final game disc must also be disclosed.
They're (the raters) literally given the most extreme bits of a product in order to rate it properly and, yes, context does figure into the process (I honestly didn't expect it not to in some way, but a guy can dream). I'm not really on board with that due to reasons I've already mentioned, but there it is. I suppose its inclusion stands as testament to the more immersive nature of the medium.

There's also this,

To eliminate the risk of outside influence, including from industry members and the media, the identities of ESRB raters are kept confidential, and they are not permitted to have any ties to or connections with any individuals or entities in the video game industry.
They are trying to keep their raters as objective as they can be.

And, yes, when you frame it that way, it certainly is ridiculous. It's a good thing that that's not what I was saying.

First of all, the example was introduced with a warning for hyperbole.
Second, I don't remember making a point of Plague's or Manhunt's "total kill count" needing to impact its rating.
Third, the idea was to challenge the "context is chief" concept by providing an (extreme) example of context sans representation of violence.

The entire point was to compare the context and representation of each game's violence. It shows a lack of recognition of the implied violence, which is ignored, because it is not presented in any 'tangible' fashion, while Manhunt's is displayed, in visceral detail.

And that's because the content is primarily what informs the rating. The context is secondary.

That would be why Independence Day receives a PG-13 and Saw an R. At least several orders of magnitude more people die in the former than the latter, which makes it worse from a purely contextual standpoint...but the primary factor, in terms of rating, is what's being displayed on screen.

So. No. Context, in terms of ratings for media, is not key.

[small](Aside: I don't believe that "true" or 100% objectivity is reasonable or, due to the nature of perception/humankind, even possible...without one hell of a system of checks and balances in place or delving into ludicrous levels of minutia. But it sure as hell doesn't mean it shouldn't be something to strive for in the interest of fairness, especially for an organization like the ESRB. And trotting out the "well, it's impossible, so why bother!" fallacy is just...cringe-worthy.)[/small]
 

EvolutionKills

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LostGryphon said:
EvolutionKills said:
LostGryphon said:
And of course context matters. I'm not saying it doesn't. I'm saying that using context as an excuse to separate a game from others, with similar violent content, based on distaste for a specific context is not a road I want to see a rating system, which is supposed to aim for objectivity, go down.

It just muddies things. The content itself is sufficient and has, seemingly, been the basis for ratings up until this point.

Bold used for emphasis.

That is an assumption on your part, and clearly one the ESRB doesn't seem to agree with.

How would an objective system work? Should they be busy attempting to measure the volume of digital blood used? Counting the number of giblets? Should the difference between a Teen and a Mature game be the number of civilians you can kill?

They're all subjective, and none of them are trying otherwise. Each represents, to a greater or lesser extent, the acceptable cultural norms for the cultures they represent. This is why Nazi paraphernalia gets censored out of WWII games in Germany, why Japan has a comparatively higher tolerance for nudity, while the United States has a generally higher tolerance for blood, guts, and gore; but clearly even we have our boundaries and limits. Even between games that share a Mature rating, some parents will find more or less objectionable for their children. A parent who might be okay with killing aliens in the hero context of HALO can object to the criminal context of Grand Theft Auto, and be both well reasoned and within their rights of discretion; but I doubt anybody is bothering with calculating the average number of f-bombs in GTA to make that distinction, nor would it really be all that constructive to do so.

I'd argue that context is the most important aspect to consider.

Let's try that again, comparing Plageu Inc. and Manhunt. If you want to argue that Plague's E10+ rating is bogus vis-a-vis the total kill count (regardless of context, we are being objective here) when compared to Manhunt, then the movie Independence Day should be rated NC-17 instead of PG13 because it depicts cities full of people being annihilated compared to only the handful of people killed in any given R rated SAW movie. This is patently ridiculous.

Context is key.
It's an assumption that a medium's ratings board, and, by extension, the system they put in place, is supposed to strive for objectivity and fair assessment of products? That's just...sad.

I appreciate the immediate dive into hyperbole, but it's not helpful. :/

Here's this. Devs/Publishers or whatever have to provide the following for rating:

- A completed ESRB online questionnaire detailing the game's pertinent content, which essentially translates to anything that may factor into the game's rating. This includes not only the content itself (violence, sexual content, language, controlled substances, gambling, etc.), but other relevant factors such as context, reward systems and the degree of player control; and
- A DVD that captures all pertinent content, including typical gameplay, missions, and cutscenes, along with the most extreme instances of content across all relevant categories. Pertinent content that is not playable (i.e., "locked out") but will exist in the game code on the final game disc must also be disclosed.
They're (the raters) literally given the most extreme bits of a product in order to rate it properly and, yes, context does figure into the process (I honestly didn't expect it not to in some way, but a guy can dream). I'm not really on board with that due to reasons I've already mentioned, but there it is. I suppose its inclusion stands as testament to the more immersive nature of the medium.

There's also this,

To eliminate the risk of outside influence, including from industry members and the media, the identities of ESRB raters are kept confidential, and they are not permitted to have any ties to or connections with any individuals or entities in the video game industry.
They are trying to keep their raters as objective as they can be.

And, yes, when you frame it that way, it certainly is ridiculous. It's a good thing that that's not what I was saying.

First of all, the example was introduced with a warning for hyperbole.
Second, I don't remember making a point of Plague's or Manhunt's "total kill count" needing to impact its rating.
Third, the idea was to challenge the "context is chief" concept by providing an (extreme) example of context sans representation of violence.

The entire point was to compare the context and representation of each game's violence. It shows a lack of recognition of the implied violence, which is ignored, because it is not presented in any 'tangible' fashion, while Manhunt's is displayed, in visceral detail.

And that's because the content is primarily what informs the rating. The context is secondary.

That would be why Independence Day receives a PG-13 and Saw an R. At least several orders of magnitude more people die in the former than the latter, which makes it worse from a purely contextual standpoint...but the primary factor, in terms of rating, is what's being displayed on screen.

So. No. Context, in terms of ratings for media, is not key.

[small](Aside: I don't believe that "true" or 100% objectivity is reasonable or, due to the nature of perception/humankind, even possible...without one hell of a system of checks and balances in place or delving into ludicrous levels of minutia. But it sure as hell doesn't mean it shouldn't be something to strive for in the interest of fairness, especially for an organization like the ESRB. And trotting out the "well, it's impossible, so why bother!" fallacy is just...cringe-worthy.)[/small]

I'm sorry, but I think we may be talking past one another, and do largely agree with each other.

I'll concede to your point vis-a-vis content versus context. I'd argue that while Plague Inc. in context is simulating pathogens with the express purpose of wiping out the human race, it's also within the context of a simple GUI not much more complicated than a couple of info spreadsheets and a world map. Within the context of the game's content, it's very tame, even if the idea is on a meta level pretty disturbing. You don't actually see the billions killed, they're all represented by numbers and bar graphs. Humanity's extinction is represented nothing more objectionable than an Excel spreadsheet infographic. How the game displays information to the player, it's content, does inform the games' context. I'm sorry if I didn't make this clear enough or gave the impression that I thought otherwise.

As far as objectivity is concerned, it is a nice idea. Is pure objectivity possible? I don't think so. But in order to avoid a huge philosophical divergent tangent here, I'll say that I think the best we can do is strive for objectivity relative to a subjective scale. To point, each rating system has a different subjective set of criteria, and this is informed by the cultures that helped to make them. This is why you might see different subjective ratings according to different rating systems across different regions, for what is objectively identical content. Now by involving and weighing cultural norms as filtered through individuals and gauged against the the ever changing backdrop of precedent, pure objectivity is a pipe-dream. That's not to say that objectivity isn't something worth working towards, but rather just recognizing that it's an end goal that's I simply do not think is achievable. I mean, do you have a plan or an idea about how to apply the scientific method to video-games in an efficient way that would allow us to tabulate objective information and build objective rating measurements for things like the level of violence, gore, language use, etc.? Because I'd be really curious if you did.

But once again, I think it would be futile unless we could also objectively account for context, which is inherently subjective. Because unless an objective system had a way for distinguishing between violence used in self defense or defense of the innocent (HALO), the subjection and persecution of the helpless and innocent (Hatred), or games that can represent either depending on player motivation (Fallout, Skyrim); just what would it's output really mean to us? Even if we could suss out objective raw data, wouldn't it still need to go through subjective interpretation, botching the whole objective thing anyways?
 

Scorpid

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Jul 24, 2011
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I don't care about this horrible game, I'm only glad it got its AO rating and that it stands. If your game ONLY exists to be a representation of mass slaughter then thats disgusting. As disgusting as if you played germans in a concentration camp simulator. The issue of mass shootings are still effecting countries and these developers have no moral right to glorify that.
 

Lightspeaker

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Dec 31, 2011
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This story makes me sad for one reason and one reason alone, highlighted by these two quotes:

This is notable, of course, because the AO rating is rarely implemented and most typically reserved for titles with strong sexual content.
"I'm not quite convinced why Hatred got [an] AO rating while it lacks any sexual content,"
Why...WHY is an "adult rating" seen as a thing given to sexual content but NOT high levels of violence? What the hell is wrong with people when violence, murder and gore is seen as more acceptable than something like sex which is a perfectly normal thing? Why are people so scared of boobs or whatever?

Honestly the US rating system just baffles me completely.